Everybody Leaves



From congregation POV, the REV BURNS preaches a rousing message of hell fire and redemption. He is very active, kicking his leg out and punching his arm in the air for emphasize while shouting his message.

No man knows when Jesus will come. Those left behind will face untold trials and tribulations. The fires of hell will nip at their heels.

From Rev Burns POV, the congregation sits raptly listening. You hear the occasional “amen” and “hallelujah” as he ministers. JESS and JUSTIN have their heads down texting on their phones while Rev Burns continues to preach in the background.

Their only hope is to make it to an altar and pray like they’ve never prayed before.

Justin, want to go to the lake after we get out of here?

Sure. Anybody else going?

Justin points to Jess’s phone silently asking who she’s texting.
The normal crowd, at least those who can get a ride to the lake.

Wake up! Look at the signs! His coming is near.

Jess and Justin both look up, startled at the loud shout from Rev. Burns. When they realize he’s still preaching they look at one another giggling nervously.
People mill out of the church. Some of the people smile, others talk quietly, some are still sobbing as they exit. Most of the people stop and shake hands with Rev Burns and compliment his message. Jess and Justin walk out together.

Jess, Justin, I trust you enjoyed the message today

(shaking Rev Burns hand)
Rousing as always, Rev Burns.

Justin, come on. We’ve got to go.


Justin smiles at Rev Burns and hurries after Jess.

Jess, Justin and several other young people play volleyball in their swimwear at the lake. MARY sits to the side, head tipped back letting the warm sun caress her skin. Unlike the others, she is dressed in a modest one-piece bathing suit.

Hey, Mary! Come on and play, you can be on my team.

Thank you, no. This is a beautiful day God made and I just want to enjoy it and look at the view.

I hope that view you’re checking out is these awesome abs of mine.
(smiling bashfully)
You know that wouldn’t be nice of me.

Most of the young people lie on towels and blankets, a fire burns on the beach. Jess cuddles up with a cute guy and Justin puts logs on the fire.

Justin bring me a beer.

You better not have another one. It’s almost time to go home and we don’t want to be grounded.

You sound like Mary, being all goody two-shoe. You can talk to the ‘rents, just bring me a beer.

Jess and Justin enter the front door and attempt to sneak up the stairs. They hear MOM and DAD in the family room. Mom’s low quietly modulated voice reads a passage of scripture out loud.
Justin and Jess make it half-way up the stairs before hearing their Dad call out. Jess hurries up the stairs and Justin turns to talk to his Dad.

I thought you guys were going to be a church tonight?

We were, Dad. I’m sorry we were playing volleyball and lost track of time. We’ll do better next time.

You know it’s not acceptable to miss church, besides your Mom was worried sick.

(hanging his head)
I know. I’m really sorry.

Have you been drinking?

Dad hollers at Jess to come downstairs. She comes mid-way down.

Jess, get down here!

Have the two of you been drinking?

Jess and Justin look at one another to see who will speak first. Justin breaks eye contact first, swallowing hard before speaking.

No sir, we were just playing volleyball and swimming.

I don’t believe you. Go to the kitchen. I bought a new sobriety breath test kit today. Let’s see if it works.

Jess sits in the floor. Her eyes and lips are red and swollen. Her skin is blotchy. Justin is sitting cross leg on the bed idly flipping through channels on the muted TV. A phone rings and rings in the background.

I told you not to drink, now we’re stuck here all next weekend. You totally ruined my date with Mary next Friday.

Blame it on me. You drank as much as I did—prolly more, but no, you’ve got to impress folks so you stop early.

Jess starts coughing and blows her nose on a shredded, wet tissue.

Dad was less worried about the drinking and more worried about telling me I needed to get “ready to go.” I’m so tired of hearing that every single day.

It’s true, Jess. I just don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon. They act like it could be today….I wonder why they aren’t answering the phone.

Justin gets up, steps into the hall and picks up the phone. He nods and looks down the stairs. A light shines in the family room but he can’t see his Mom or Dad. We only hear one side of the conversation.

I don’t know..they were in the family room, but I can’t see them now. I’ll tell them to call you Rev. Burns.

Justin hangs up the phone walks downstairs. He hollers loudly for his parents as he walks.

Mom? Dad?

Nobody answers. He continues down the stairs and walks into the family room. The room appears to be empty at first glance. He sees his Mom’s Bible and glasses in the floor. He hurries across the room, trips over some clothing on the floor.
He looks down and sees his Dad’s clothes, glasses, spilled tea glass and belt on the floor. He bends down, picks them up and lays them on the sofa. His forehead wrinkles in puzzlement before he realizes what he sees. He yells loudly.

Jess! Jess! Oh my God! Jess.

Jess runs down the stairs, skidding to a stop at the family room door.

What? What’s wrong?

She sees Justin stand there with their Mom’s Bible in his hand.

It happened. They’re gone.

Gone? What do you mean gone?

Jess steps further into the room. She turns slowly looking around. She picks up her Mom’s Bible.

They’ve got to be here somewhere. They are messing with us like they always do.

Justin speaks to her slowly like he would speak to a small child.

No, I don’t think so Jess. That was Rev Burns on the phone. He said most of the saints were gone, disappeared leaving only their clothes behind.

Justin walks over to Jess, puts his arms around her and continues.

He said the grave yards are torn up, like bodies have been dug up. He said..he said he didn’t make it…

Jess drives the car. Justin sits in the passenger seat. Jess fingers constantly tap the steering wheel. She frequently glances at Justin. Her lips clamp together in a thin line. She glances accusingly at Justin.

Why? Why did they go? Why did they leave us? Why didn’t they take me?

You know where they’ve gone and you know why you are here.

She stares at him, eyes narrowed, teeth clenched.

This is all your fault.

Justin stares out the window. His face is slack, blank. High line poles flash by as he remembers.
4-year old Justin sits on his Mom’s lap and learns the alphabet. His Mom sings the ABC song in a soft voice. Younger Jess plays with alphabet building blocks in the floor.

A B C D E F G, Jesus died for you and me; H I J K L M N, Jesus died for sinful men

Justin’s tiny voice chimes in


Mom finishes out the song frontwards and begins singing it backwards.

Z Y X and W V, God is watching over me…

Justin turns his head toward Jess. His voice is quivering.

You know why they’re gone and you didn’t have to follow me, but you did. You made your own choice.

The car continues down the road entering town. Justin softly sings another verse of the ABC song out loud.

B is for Bible, the map to heaven. H is for hell.

Justin punches the dashboard. He looks out the window looking for a familiar landmark before speaking to Jess again.

You know it’s no use. Rev Burns said to get here as soon as possible, but you know it’s not going to change anything. Right? You know that, right?

They said, Mom and Dad said, if we don’t make it to go to the church and pray.

Jess’s voice catches. She holds back a sob.

Maybe God will hear me. L is for love. If he loves me he will listen to me.

They both see the church steeple at the same time. It shines brightly against the gray of the sky. They can no longer drive the car due to the large number of stalled cars on the road. They exit the car and continue on foot.

There are too many people, we can’t get there.

We must. The altar is our only hope.

They both push and shove through the crowd. They lose sight of one another. Jess finally gets to the door stepping on the backs of people lying on the floor. She reaches the altar, wraps her arms around it, lifts her face toward heaven and screams.

Father, forgive me.



Above is one of my submissions in a beginner’s screenwriting class. The required screenplay format did not translate well into blog form. I took one of my previous stories and converted it. I made a decent grade on this project but it is far from perfect. Enjoy!

13 thoughts on “Everybody Leaves

  1. While I was reading this story, I was expecting a light-hearted simple tale..boy was I in for a surprise! I enjoyed the diction and imagery that you vividly painted in your story. The title “Everyone Leaves” is not what I expected at the beginning. When you described Reverend Burns, I immediately thought of the sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” written and delivered by Jonathan Edwards in the 1700’s. This story in a sense reminds me of a southern allegory that parents might tell their children when they are young. If you lie about something, particularly going to church when you did not (like stated in the story), then God will punish you.

  2. This story Is truly touching because Jesus can come back any day and anytime. No one knows, its up to us to yearn for the ways that Jesus taught or we could be left behind like jess and Justin. While I was reading this story I felt scared and I felt like I was in the story. The story spoke so many volumes of truth. It makes you look different at life, like you really need to get your life in order and on the path that Jesus wants, because one day he will return and no one knows the day or the hour. It was a really nice story.

    • Kahdijah,

      Thank you. Remember when your are reading from a critical analysis view, whether you like the story or not is not the issue. What could have made the story better?

  3. this is very touching since we really do not know when Jesus is coming back and i think a lot of younger people and some older people are not ready i think they are blind to see that Jesus did die for us and that if we have accepted him we can go to heaven when he comes back and i know i am not ready because i am not close to God like i should. the story could have a little more depth about why the person felt there kids should be ready for the day Jesus comes back but other then that i like it

  4. This was a very moving story. It had a lot of meaning behind it, also. You never really know when your last day or anyone else’s last day on earth is going to be and you need to hold people close to your heart. This story is something teenagers need to read because it teaches you a lesson. That lesson being to stay as close to God as you can and do not stray away. Why? Because you need him in your life, and you don’t want to be the one who gets left behind.

  5. This story was very interesting! At first I was like this is entirely too long , but I actually got a lesson out of it. No man knows the date or the time, that is exactly why it is important that we are ready today!

  6. I wanted this story to continue. It was very interesting from the beginning to the end. I felt so bad for the kids but you never know when that day will come so we should always be prepared. I would of liked to know what happened to Jess and Justin at the end. Did they ever find each other and what happened to the rest of the people that were left behind? I really enjoyed this story.

  7. i truly enjoyed this peace of writing it is no doubt a true eye opener and really makes you ponder the choices we make and how they will affect us in the long run. you can’t blame anybody else for what you’ve done in this life as jess blamed justin for not making to haven she didn’t have to follow him down to the lake she chose to make that choice.

  8. When I started reading this I was expecting a fairy tale ending with a moral. That was not the case obviously (well, I can see the lesson to be learned. It was a little too late for Jess and Justin though). Although it was a lot more serious than I expected, I found a little bit of humor in it. When I was younger, my family attended church every week and were heavily involved. I grew up hearing quite a bit about the rapture and, at my young age, it was a scary thought. But to get to the point, my mother smoked cigarettes outside and one day, after I got out of the shower, I went looking for my mom. I called her name out around the house, opened the front door, looked on the back porch, went back through the house… where is she?? I thought to myself that she was at a neighbors house, so I went over there. Nope. So now I start freaking out. THE RAPTURE CAME AND TOOK MY MOM AND NOW I’M LEFT HERE ALONE AND… I was a mess. So I went to my back yard and cried and cried and cried and…all of a sudden, here is mom, cleaning out the storage building. If I learned anything that day, it is to be grateful for your parents because, just like Jess and Justin realized too late, they can be gone at any time. Needless to say, after reading where Jess and Justin wondered why the phone was left ringing I saw where the story was going; it could only play out one of two ways: a cruel joke on Jess and Justin or the rapture really did happen.

  9. I have never really tried reading through a screenplay so I didn’t really know what to expect but its actually my favorite of your stories I have read. You definitely used the element of surprise well. I couldn’t make an assumption about the story at all even know the first part of the story where the reverend was preaching clearly foreshadowed what would happen later in the story it was still subtle enough to keep you guessing. Everything I read was a surprise to me and it gave me the urge to keep reading. The story also got really exciting once they started to come down stairs looking for their parents. The build up was suspenseful and made you unsure of what had happened even know it was clear something wasn’t right.

    Once they realized their parents were gone and they had missed the rapture it felt like it turned into a different story completely with a much more serious setting. The way you ended the story with suspense left me with a feeling that there was more to it and I wasn’t at the end but I also feel like you were setting up for a sequel to the story. Whatever your intentions it was a great story.

    You should really write a second part to this I really liked it.

  10. This story everybody leaves is a nice story and it reminds me of myself in the past when I was younger but not being a bad person, more so not paying attention in church fooling around not listening to my preacher because I was ready to go. As I’ve gotten older I realize that reading my bible and going to church when I can is really helpful in life. Reading this story basically has the two children scared because they were fooling around in church then later missed church drinking etc..but realized that Rapture had came and they remained one earth to live in hell. They tried to rush to the church for forgiveness but it was too late.

  11. The story depicts faith in God and the downfall of many. There are a lot of skeptics in the world. They do not believe in what they cannot see. This causes them to have freedom to throw caution to the wind. As morals get lost in the wants of many, so does the good nature helping hand mindset. I feel the story could have ended with one or two more comments from Jess and Justin to each other after they reached the alter. If Justin did get there or not.

  12. I really expected something totally different reading this. But when they it said their parents were gone and their clothes were left it was a bit of a shock. It showed them that they really didn’t know when Jesus was coming back and sadly for them it was now. This story showed how they didn’t have faith but their parents did so they were taken and now the kids had to get to the altar and hope that they could still be heard. Out of the stories i have read this one is probably the one i’ve found most interesting.

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